Erudition, scholarship mark Pt. Abhyankar’s fare
By MOHAN NADKARNI
The Economic Times, July 23, 1989
Erudition and scholarship were the distinctive features of the three-hour sitar solo by Pandit Shankar Abhyankar, featured by the Dadar-Matunga Cultural Centre at its monthly concert on July 9. It was an evening programme and the melodies chosen were in tune with the moods evoked by sunset and early night hours. They included Marwa, Poorvi, Mishra Pilu and Jogeshwari.
Each of the presentations was brief but extremely well-designed. All were explored in the conventional phases of alap, jod, jhala followed by gat in slow and fast tempi. His strokes were neat and clear and the overall playing was musical to the core. One also sensed deliberate design in the way he conjured the variety of phrases, patterns and sequences so as to fit them neatly in the scheme of the individual portrayal of the chosen theme.
Another striking feature of his recital was Abhyankar’s keen sense of laya which could be discernible even in his alap-jodjhala portions. In the playing of gats, his grip over taal was at once evident in way in which he came to the “sam”. Here he established perfect rapport with his accompanist on the percussion, the young but versatile Suresh Talwalkar. It was interesting to watch the sitarist and his percussionist matching their playing, especially in the faster strain. Although, true to type, Talwalkar tended to be noisy on occasions, there was no attempt on the part of either performer to outshine the other.
Pandit Shankar Abhyankar can be described as a self-made musician, if one goes by the fact that he started out on his own after learning only the rudiments of sitar playing from the late veteran, Pandit Shankar Rao Vyas, who had made his mark as a vocalist, instrumentalist, composer and music director rolled intone.
It all speaks of his versatility and compelling urge to forge ahead by sheer dint of hart work that Abhyankar allowed his sensibilities to be exposed to influences of contemporary styles in the Hindustani tradition, both vocal and instrumental. Side by side, he successfully mastered the art of vocal music and, like his mentor, took to composing a large number of “bandishes” set to various ragas. He also innovated several ragas. A collection of these ragas and bandishes is due for publication in book form under the title “Aradhana”, sponsored by the State Board of Literature and Culture.
Pandit Abhyankar has been engaged in the noble task of teaching – he is professor of music in the faculty of fine arts at the SNDT Women’s University in Bombay. Teaching seems to be his main occupation which he has reinforced by relentless riyaz. That possibly explains why his style and approach appear rather regimented, with few surprises or flights of fancy and imagination. For a man of his versatility, Pandit Abhyankar can easily overcome this shortcoming by stressing the improvisational side of his raga unfolding. This will make his recitals more appealing, more entertaining to present-day listeners.